Affiliated Faculty

Garden Affiliated Faculty utilize the Botanical Garden for teaching and research in topics across disciplines including: botany, evolution, climate change, cultural connections to plants, medicine,  public health, and more.

Siobhan Braybrook, Ph.D. (she/hers)
Assistant Professor, Molecular, Cell and Developmental Biology

As a group, we focus a large effort on understanding how shapes are generated during plant development. This entails detailing the process of shape generation, describing the changes in cell wall mechanics and chemistry that accompany shape generation, and dissecting the underlying molecular control mechanisms for these changes. We are also interested in the relationship between cell walls and development in algae, with a major focus on brown algae. We are also actively involved in understanding how the material properties of the cell wall, a biological composite material, contribute to its ability to control plant development. In order to really understand what is happening in development, we need to get a grasp on how the cell wall behaves as a material, what components and structures contribute to which behaviours, and how these behaviours affect physical processes such as extension, new material deposition, and diffusion.

Thomas W. Gillespie, Ph.D.
Professor, Department of Geography and Institute of the Environment and Sustainability

My past research interests have focused on using geographic information systems (GIS) and remote sensing data for predicting patterns of species richness and rarity for plants and birds at a regional spatial scale.

Dr. Mishuana Goeman (Tonawanda Band of Seneca)
Professor of Gender Studies and American Indian Studies IDP
Affiliated Faculty in Critical Race Studies, UCLA Law
Special Advisor to the Chancellor on Native American and Indigenous Affairs

Dr. Mishuana Goeman, Tonawanda Band of Seneca, is an Associate Professor of Gender Studies, Chair of American Indian Studies Interdepartmental Program and Associate Director of American Indian Studies Research Center at the University of California, Los Angeles. She received her doctorate from Stanford University’s Modern Thought and Literature and was a UC Presidential Post-doctoral fellow at Berkeley. Her research involves thinking through colonialism, geography and literature in ways that generate anti-colonial tools in the struggle for social justice. Her book, Mark My Words: Native Women Mapping Our Nations (University of Minnesota Press, 2013) was honored at the American Association for Geographic Perspectives on Women and a finalist for best first book from NAISA. The Spectacle of Originary Moments: Terrance Malick’s the New World, is in progress with the Indigenous Film Series, University of Nebraska Press. She has published in peer-reviewed journals such as American Quarterly, Critical Ethnic Studies, Settler Colonial Studies, Wicazo Sa, International Journal of Critical Indigenous Studies, Frontiers: A Journal of Women’s Studies, Transmotion, and American Indian Cultures and Research Journal. She has guest edited journal volumes on Native Feminisms and another on Indigenous Performances. She has also co-authored a book chapter in Handbook for Gender Equity on “Gender Equity for American Indians” and single authored chapters in Sources and Methods in Indigenous Studies (Routledge 2016), Macmillan Interdisciplinary Handbooks: Gender: Sources, Perspectives, and Methodologies (2016). Other book chapters include a piece on visual geographies and settler colonialism in Theorizing Native Studies, eds. Audra Simpson and Andrea Smith, (Duke University Press, 2014) and a chapter on trauma, geography, and decolonization in Critically Sovereign: Indigenous Gender, Sexuality, and Feminist Studies (ed. Joanne Barker, Duke University Press, 2017). She is also a Co-PI on a community based digital community project, Mapping Indigenous L.A., that is working toward creating a self-represented storytelling, archival, and community orientated maps that unveil multi-layered Indigenous LA landscapes. The created storymaps begin with The Gabrieleño Tongva and Fernandeño Tataviam while including those from diasporic Indigenous communities who make LA their home. The current phase develops curriculum for K-12.
Carrying Our Ancestors Home:
Mapping Indigenous LA (MILA):

Ann M. Hirsch, Ph.D.
Distinguished Professor, Molecular, Cell & Developmental Biology

The research in my lab has mostly focused on the early stages of the interaction between nitrogen-fixing Rhizobium bacteria and legumes such as alfalfa, pea, and soybean in order to determine why this interaction occurs exclusively with leguminous plants.

Google Scholar:

Nathan Kraft, Ph.D.
Associate Professor, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology

Our research group focuses on understanding the processes that both generate and maintain diversity in the identity, characteristics and abundances of species that are found together in natural communities, with a particular focus on vascular plants. Given that community ecology is typically “messy”- that is- it often can be difficult to generalize results from one study or species to another, and that there are over 400,000 plant species on the planet, our group primarily focuses on more general answers to community ecology questions that can emerge from a focus on the functional ecology and phylogenetic context of species.

Jeff Long, Ph.D.
Professor, Molecular, Cell & Developmental Biology

The Long laboratory is interested in the transcriptional networks that control polarity and stem cell formation during plant embryonic development. We have focused our research on the transcriptional co-repressor TOPLESS (TPL) that is involved in almost all aspects of plant development, and use a variety of approaches including genetics, genomics, biochemistry and confocal imaging in our research. Our work on TPL has uncovered multiple transcription factors involved not just in embryogenesis, but also in polarity decisions in the leaves, patterning of floral organs, and the response to the hormone auxin. We also study the chromatin modifying enzymes that TPL uses to repress transcription, which are conserved between plants and animals.

Luke Nikolov, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor,  Molecular, Cell and Developmental Biology

To attract pollinating animals, plants display an elaborate array of color, form, and scent?but the ultimate reward for the pollinators is nectar, a complex sugary liquid with distinct composition across species. Nectar is produced in nectaries, secretory structures with diverse organization broadly distributed in plants. We are working to understand the developmental basis of nectary formation and nectar production. Using comparative genetics and genomic tools, the Nikolov Lab is identifying genes that control how and where the nectaries are built, and the mechanisms responsible for nectar synthesis and secretion. These findings will provide insight into a plant-animal mutualism important to agriculture and bee health, and will stimulate future applications to increase crop yield by enhancing the ecosystem services of pollinators.

Cully Nordby, Ph.D.
Associate Director, UCLA Institute of the Environment and Sustainability

Dr. Cully Nordby is the Associate Director of the UCLA Institute of the Environment and Sustainability. She has devoted her career to educating and empowering students to summon the future they seek. She was instrumental in building the Institute’s academic program from one undergraduate minor to a full suite of five programs including a B.S. in environmental science, two doctoral programs and the Leadership in Sustainability graduate certificate.

Noa Pinter-Wollman, Ph.D.
Associate Professor, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology

Many biological systems are complex aggregates of multiple agents working together towards collective, higher-order goals, and evolution acts on variation in these emergent collective properties. There is no central control dictating the activities of members in the assembly. Instead, agents use local signals that determine their behavior and are received through an intricate interaction network resulting in collective phenotypes. Thus, the composition of a group and the way its members interact affects the success of the group as a whole, just as the composition of any sports team dictates its success in the league. The Pinter-Wollman lab examines the emergence of collective outcomes from group composition by combining field and lab studies with computer simulations, theoretical work, image analysis, and social network analysis. We are also interested in the interplay between conservation biology and animal behavior. Examining the behavior of animals can provide important assessment tools for conservation actions and insights on preserving biodiversity. At the same time, wildlife management actions can provide unique opportunities for studying interesting questions in animal behavior.

Dr. Tara Prescott-Johnson
Continuing Lecturer in Writing Programs and Faculty in Residence

Dr. Tara Prescott is a Lecturer in Writing Programs. Her research interests include twentieth-century American literature, modernism, poetry, comics and graphic novels, popular culture, feminist theory, and James Joyce. She teaches English Composition 3, English Composition 3SL (Service Learning), English Composition 131B: Business and Social Policy, English Composition 131C: Medical Narratives, Honors 19: James Joyce’s Ulysses, Honors 19: Creative Writing: Poetry, and Honors 87W: The Art of Neil Gaiman.

Rachel Prunier, Ph.D.
Assistant Adjunct Professor, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology

I am continuing my work understanding the genetics and evolution that underlie the diversification of plants in South Africa. This work is comprised of two main projects. One project is the assembly and annotation of the genome of Protea repens, a strangely widespread plant species from South Africa. Together with Dr. Jill Wegrzyn at UConn and Dr. Andrew Latimer at UC Davis I hope to understand the genes that have allowed it to take advantage of the challenging environment in which it lives. This project is entirely on the computer, using python and shell scripting to coordinate the complex computational challenges of assembling the genome and identifying the genes. The second project is more lab based. In collaboration with Dr. Sandy-Lynn Steenhuisen at the University of the Free State and Dr. Jeremy Midgely at the University of Cape Town in South Africa and their students, I am investigating the genetic diversity of species with different pollinators. We are also investigating the extent to which individuals in these species mate with themselves or mate with other individuals. Both of these factors: genetic diversity and inbreeding have consequences for the evolution of species.

Phil Rundel, Ph.D.
Distinguished Professor Emeritus, Ecology & Evolutionary Biology
Associate Director, UCLA Herbarium

Our laboratory maintains a breadth of interests centering on aspects of vascular plant adaptation to environmental water and nutrient stress. Within this context we have focused particularly on the interactions of physiological water stress and nutrient availability in limiting net primary production of arid zone plants. We are looking intensively at the relationship of seasonal changes in morphological, architectural and physiological components of plant form and function in woody desert legumes and evergreen shrubs. Our approaches in these investigations involve analysis of components of tissue water relations, photosynthetic capacity, foliar nutrient levels, leaf morphology and canopy architecture. We are very interested in applications of stable isotope ratios to ecological research studies as a means of developing integrated measurements of physiological response to environmental stress. Such measures will help us link physiological process studies to an ecosystem perspective. In addition to our work on desert ecosystems, my laboratory group maintains interests in several other areas. These include the physiological ecology of plant species in Mediterranean-type and tropical ecosystems, parallel with our desert research. We are also investigating the impact of air pollutants on photosynthetic capacity and productivity of coniferous forest trees in California.

Lawren Sack, Ph.D.
Professor and Vice Chair, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
Professor, Institute of the Environment and Sustainability

We study the mechanisms for function and co-existence of plant species– including responses to resources, tolerance of environmental challenges, and competition– as well as the evolution and functional consequences of diversity in plant traits. We explore processes across scales ranging from molecules to ecosystems. We have a special focus on leaf and whole plant hydraulics traits, drought tolerance, the evolution of trait diversity within lineages, and the responses of species and ecosystems to ongoing climate change. We are also very interested in applications of our research toward forest and plant species conservation under climate change.

David Delgado Shorter, Ph.D.
Professor, World Arts and Cultures
Director, Archive of Healing

Dr. David Delgado Shorter is Professor of World Arts and Cultures/Dance at the University of California Los Angeles. The author of an award-winning book and the recipient of the University’s top teaching award, Dr. Shorter has created three digital publications, produced and directed an ethnographic film, and curated exhibits both on-line and in Los Angeles. His research includes over two decades of collaboration with an indigenous community in Mexico and studying the borderland between the objective and intersubjective sciences. He has been interviewing psychics, mediums, and ufologists for the last decade, joining others to expand our definition of truth and knowledge.

In 2016, Shorter became the Director of the Archive of Healing, a database of medicinal folklore from around the world. The database is drawn from six university archives, over 3,200 books, and over thirty years of first hand and second hand anthropological data, spanning seven continents. Working with a team of students at UCLA studying healing across cultures, Dr. Shorter aims to develop an active archive where people and communities can benefit from the sharing of healing practices.

Dr. Shorter has been certified as having been attuned to Gokui Kaiden, the highest level of Gendai Reiki Ho, by Hiroshi Doi Sensei (Ashiya, Japan). His students include both those graduate students at the University of California, as well as those studying reiki from his private practice.

At the University, Shorter teaches Aliens, Psychics, and Ghosts; Colonialisms and Resistance; Healing/Ritual/Transformation, The Philosophy of Martin Buber; Language, Culture, and Ontology; Data Management, Research Methodologies, and Introduction to Meditation. Potential advisees and students should visit the “Academia” section of this site.

Victoria Sork, Ph.D.
Director, UCLA Mildred E. Mathias Botanical Garden
Distinguished Professor, Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
Distinguished Professor, Institute of the Environment and Sustainability

The evolution of local adaptation shapes the genetic and phenotypic variation that determines the survival of tree populations. A question today is how are long-lived species going to survive the human induced rapid environmental changes induced by ecosystem modification and climate change. My research team is developing the iconic California signature tree, valley oak (Quercus lobata), as a model tree system to study how trees can tolerate such rapid changes. We are also conducting a variety of ecological, genetic and genomic projects to better understand how natural selection and gene flow influence ecological and evolutionary dynamics of tree populations. Here is a list of major ongoing and recent projects in our lab.

Shannon Speed (Chickasaw), Ph.D.
Professor, Gender Studies and Anthropology
Director, American Indian Studies Center
Past President, Native American and Indigenous Studies Association (NAISA) 2019-2020

Shannon Speed is a citizen of the Chickasaw Nation. She is Director of the American Indian Studies Center (AISC) and Professor of Gender Studies and Anthropology at UCLA. Dr. Speed has worked for the last two decades in Mexico and in the United States on issues of indigenous autonomy, sovereignty, gender, neoliberalism, violence, migration, social justice, and activist research. She has published numerous journal articles and book chapters in English and Spanish, as well as published six books and edited volumes, including her most recent, Incarcerated Stories: Indigenous Women Migrants in the Settler Capitalist State. Dr. Speed currently serves as the President of the Native American and Indigenous Studies Association (NAISA).

Jochen Stutz, Ph.D.
Professor, Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences

Our main interest is the study of urban air pollution at night, the impact of halogen species on tropospheric ozone, and the development of new spectroscopic methods to study the earth’s atmosphere.

Wendy Giddens Teeter, Ph.D., RPA
Curator of Archaeology, Fowler Museum at UCLA,
Lecturer, UCLA American Indian Studies
NAGPRA Coordinator, UCLA Campus
Co-PI, Carrying our Ancestors Home,
Co-Director, Pimu Catalina Island Archaeology Project
Co-PI, Mapping Indigenous Los Angeles,

Dr. Wendy G Teeter is the Curator of Archaeology for the Fowler Museum, UCLA NAGPRA Coordinator, and teaches periodically in UCLA American Indian Studies. She is a member of the UC President’s Native American Advisory Council. Teeter collaborates nationally and internationally with Indigenous communities on issues of repatriation and cultural heritage protection. She is Co-PI for Mapping  Indigenous Los Angeles, a community-based website devoted to storytelling through cultural geography and map making as well as providing educational resources and curriculum and for Carrying our Ancestors Home, which tells the history of repatriation at UCLA and stories of repatriation from Indigenous communities. Since 2007, Teeter has been co-director of the Pimu Catalina Island Archaeology Project, which seeks to understand the Indigenous history of the island and Tongva homelands through multi-disciplinary and collaborative methodologies. The Project provides a field school that has educated over 150 students on the importance of community-based archaeology.  Teeter helped to develop the Tribal Learning Community & Educational Exchange Program in the Native Nations Law & Policy Center, UCLA School of Law in 2003 and serves as on its Advisory Board. In June 2011 she co-curated, “Launching A Dream: Reviving Tongva Maritime Traditions,” at the Fowler Museum at UCLA with Cindi Alvitre (Director, Ti’at Society). She serves on several boards and committees including as Chair of the Society for California Archaeology Curation Committee and Editorial Board Member, Heritage & Society Journal.

Felipe Zapata, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology

We are broadly interested in organismal biology and the origin and evolution of biodiversity. Our main focus are flowering plants, but we occasionally work with other organisms. We integrate multiple areas of biology, from field to computational biology, to address questions in evolution and systematics.

The UCLA Mildred E. Mathias Botanical Garden acknowledges the Gabrielino/Tongva peoples as the traditional land caretakers of Tovaangar (the Los Angeles basin and So. Channel Islands). As a promoter of nature at a California land grant institution, we pay our respects to the Honuukvetam (Ancestors), ‘Ahiihirom (Elders) and ‘Eyoohiinkem (our relatives/relations) past, present and emerging.

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